The number of keywords is big when it comes to digital innovations. Customer Experience, Digital Workplaces, Internet of Things, Digital Marketing – the list could be continued almost at will. It’s good that the discussion has arrived in Germany. Less well, it’s tool-centric.
Put simply, everyone talks about the new drill and some about the hole in the wall – but the craftsman is hardly mentioned. In the future, without a motivated and competent workforce, it will not be enough for sustainable economic success in the companies.
The motto of the hour has to be: “Man AND Machine” – that was already clearly demonstrated by a study by Avanade in 2017. Employees thus continue to play a key role and they need to become fully familiar with the topic.
Businesses need to empower their employees digitally
Of course, the roles and activities will change in this course. Beyond the largely unfounded fear of fewer jobs, this requires further development of the teams. This also means that people increasingly accept the need to leave their own comfort zone. Standstill will have much more fatal consequences in the future than in the last 20 or 30 years.
However, the ability to accept and master challenges inherent in us humans, so we must not be afraid. Therefore, it is important to see the positive aspects of transformative processes: repetitive routine activities will become less so that there is more room for creative thinking and good service.
In order for companies to be able to fully exploit the potential of the “human AND machine” concept, however, they must enable their employees digitally. And here it still lacks clear.
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Consequences – but whom?
Market research firm Incisiv conducted a variety of interviews with German, British, US and French retailers at the decision maker level as part of a qualitative study by Avanade. In the survey it became shockingly clear that 95 percent of the surveyed companies have set too low an investment in appropriate technologies and change management.
Incidentally, the biggest obstacle was not the IT budget, but the inability to provide a quantifiable return on investment. The surveyed sample is made up of a wide variety of business types, from grocery to consumer electronics to health and home furniture of all kinds. Thus, all vertical business is affected by this lack of empowerment of employees.
The question was summarized in terms of what it means to use modern tools and training for the employees in the shops or their ability – at the forefront, in direct customer contact. The result gives reason to think: Entirely 95 percent of the respondents can be classified in the categories “followers” or “latecomers”.
This raises the question: Who should actually be followed? And realistically, it must be assumed that the remaining meager five percent will not have found the best-of-breed solution anywhere, which can serve as a full-fledged role model.
Where exactly it hooks
The latecomers have a lot of catching up to do to provide their employees with collaboration and productivity solutions. Leaders have an empirically proven higher probability of success, and employee satisfaction is greater; this pays off in about a quarter lower fluctuation rate.
These leading companies manage to deliver mobile applications to their teams – integrated analytics capabilities of these applications add significant value to users in their end-user engagement activities.
The relevance of these aspects is illustrated by another figure: A retail company that reported approximately $ 1 billion in sales in the 2017 survey year concluded that it had a notional revenue loss of $ 110 million per year. The “Frontline Employee Experience” is therefore directly decisive for the user experience.
Working smarter, selling more, enabling better service – this triad still sounds far too rare in most retail companies. The few leaders are characterized by above-average success with these measures: detailed information and order histories of their customers, company-wide transparency in inventory for optimal warehouse store management and convenient user guidance for purchasing and returning goods.
If laggards and followers catch up here, they can realize significant revenue gains: Thus, an increase in customer satisfaction by more than six percent is possible. Productivity can increase by about four percent – what sounds like little, is in the view of the returns a quite relevant number.
Empower employees is worthwhile
Summarizing, the potential that lies in empowering employees digitally demonstrates that companies consistently focus on introducing the right tools and training for their teams, increasing profitability by up to ten percent.
At this point, it should be remembered once again on the total returns in the trading business – such a gain would certainly be good on some balance sheet face. For one thing is clear: to put one’s hands in the lap and moan about the omnipotence of large corporations, which are extremely successful in online trading, will cause no positive change.
The companies have to become active themselves. It also means not waiting for the perfect role model, but venturing something, experimenting, learning. Once again, remember a necessary change in mentality. More than ever, entrepreneurial courage is needed to risk digitization.
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About the author: Robert Gögele is General Manager at Avanade and responsible for the business development of the company in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. In addition, the development of Avanade’s strategic alliance with Accenture and Microsoft is one of his main responsibilities.